2019 (a year in a poem)

2019. the year of

anxiety & sunshine

& beauty & depression

of drinking good coffee

& soul-nourishing gallery visits

of leaning into therapy & pain

of hours & days lost as buried tears were found sitting on the kitchen floor while Saturn played

2019. the year of

feelings felt & found & held & felt

of grief faced & waves crashing

food uneaten, weight losing

chasms opening

heart cracking & life shaking

of questions asked

& answers found wanting

as festered rage & long-accepted values

were both…released

2019. the year of

pain & striving

for peace

of lost memories found & faced

of emotional breaking & life & self shaking of inner light dimming

& slow sparking match-light reviving

of healing through

the mind-soul-body medicines

of meditation & journalling

of 29minute whatsapp voicenote musings

of beauty & art

& poetry & space

of lush bath-bombs & masturbating

of beautiful smells & netflix binges

& m&s champagne sipped

by fairy light

of radically

abundant

self grace

& the gift of

space

taking

& making

& giving

space to me

to breathe & be

& feel & see

& wonder & wander

Nayyirah Waheed

2019. the year of

taking-up

space

to cry & laugh & rage

the year of breaking

boundaries & beliefs

of (nearly) breaking apart

& being held in the breaking

2019. the year of

losing

& finding

& freeing

of shuddering beauty

& (beautifully) ugly crying

of breath quickening & catching

& deep exhaling

2019. the year of

frustrated containment in white spaces

of colour seeking & power claiming

of being unseen & seen

of being unanchored & held

in grace & love

2019. the year of feeling

& being

more

more

more….

of me

Desiderata-living

My eye caught this beautiful scene of the sunlight through my front window this afternoon & I paused to take it in… the roses & green grass behind and, in the middle, this framed calligraphy of the beautiful, guiding poem Desiderata.

As I take time off following the end of a beautiful, hard job that stretched, broke (in bad & good ways), grew, shaped, blessed, fulfilled & thrived me…

As I take time off to think & feel & plan & be, before starting a new challenge & path ahead…

As I take time to enjoy art & reading & space & friendship,

this poem speaks to me anew & I am enjoying living it’s advice to (poem summary ahead):

Go placidly amidst the noise & haste & remember what peace there may be in silence.

Be on good terms with all persons.

Listen.

Don’t compare.

Enjoy plans & achievements alike.

Be at peace with God. See the beauty amidst the ugly drudgery it the world.

Be yourself.

Yes, be yourself.

Be yourself.

Through this hard year I have learnt the value of being more myself.

Of self-awareness, understanding & acceptance.

Acceptance which leads to better growth – of self & others.

And to the beautiful power & freedom of working, living, relating from a place of ever-more Me-ness as I continue to push on and let go.

As I continue to grow into the stunning living poem I am & write & draw my own story as I go.

Mindful leaves

A short note musing on my walk to work a few weeks ago…go with it.

Walking,

hurriedly,

texting,

music listening,

walking,

work-thinking,

absentmindedly

putting my hands in my pocket and

Realising:

I wasn’t aware of what

coat I was wearing.

Sobered.

Needing to ground myself

I STOP.

Putting aside thoughts of what others

think of this woman stopping mid pavement,

just standing…

looking at a plant.

I look at the leaves,

appreciate the green,

the light on its leaves,

frayed browning edges

and vibrant green,

I still my thoughts

and body

and just LOOK

For a minute.

I pick a small leaf and walk on

Slowlyyyy.

Looking at the leaf,

feeling its grooves,

Grounding myself by focussing.

Feeling more steady.

More present.

More Me.

Leaf on my desk,

I glance at my talisman through the day…

My reminder to breathe.

And be.

Sunflower counselling

Yesterday evening, for a WILD Friday night, I had my first counselling session. It’s been a long time coming. And I found a therapist I related to, who gets my comments about gender and race and keeps up with my flicking between received pronunciation and street language. A therapist who is REAL, in her gold reeboks, natural black-girl hair & statement t-shirt!

So 50minutes of ranting/ mature sharing later and I’m feeling ‘yep, I could work with you’…. and then the price was shared. Pow! The tears which had been building as I’d so freely shared my anger & pain spilled out. Cos it felt like a door that was opening had suddenly slammed shut!

Fast forward five minutes, as I came to the bottom of the stairs of her office I saw that the cosy waiting room was empty (cos y’know, it was FRIDAY NIGHT!)… so I walked to it to sit, cry, pray, & process.

AND THEN I SAW THIS: a Sunflower painting.

And I knew. This is my place. This is my counsellor. This is my God / the wall (delete according to your theistic belief!) confirming it to me. Saying ‘I see you, I’ve led you here, trust and proceed’. To add a little context, my nickname is Sunflower. But it’s more than a nickname. My being is Sunflower. I am Sunflower. So I sat, cried, listened to soothing music & prayed: I will go forward & TRUST the money & timings will work out. As sunflowers move to follow the sun, I’ll keep moving into this space that’s been offered, following the sun & helping to put the shadows behind me.

The regret trinity

I generally think regret gets a bad name.

I regret a lot in life: not persevering with learning a language or instrument; not trying harder in school; saying I Love You back when I didn’t mean it (!!); having cheese and crackers tonight after a day of healthy eating; repeatedly going to bed too late, and lots more!

I think the idea that is oh so popular on inspirational Pinterest posters (ugh), that regrets are bad and we should have none just misses the whole point and deep value of regrets! They can be the best motivator and prod us to grow into the people we aspire to be; to be better friends and lovers etc, to improve at work, to save money and take better care of our health etcccc.

Regret isn’t shame.

Shame labels us and makes us stuck.

Regret labels behaviour and moves us forward (well, for me it usually takes a few regrets to get the lesson but hey, it counts!).

Anyway, I was mulling on this recently and this short poem came to mind…

Regret:

The gap between

What you do

Who you are,

And what you want to do

And who you want to be.

Shame:

The gulf between

What you do,

Who you are,

And what other people want you to do

And who others want you to be.

Freedom

Neither wallowing in regret,

Nor ignoring its painful lessons,

Rather striving to do and be

What and who you want to be.

And not letting others’ (imagined?) views hinder your quest.

NLB 3.1.19

A (chronically) fabulous weekend

I had *such* a good weekend-hosting another ace LB party, followed by a 36hr mates movie weekend of late nights & being up early enough for McDonalds breakfast (with 2hrs to spare-such is our dedication to fitting in an extra movie!).

The cost of this fabulous exertion for me, however, is increased aches, pain & more tiredness than my non chronic-pain-enduring friends. So instead of doing the few things on the To Do list I diligently wrote up before bed yesterday, to do when my mates had left, I crashed on the sofa & napped instead of going to church this eve (very disappointing as it’s a great talk topic at the mo!); dinner was brought to me on the sofa by my kind husband who knew enough to rouse me to eat tonight when I’d have rather slept but actually needed the energy & enjoyment of the eating more (he’s a keeper!). The weekend’s activities were absoluteeely worth it (!!!) but in hindsight, having the movie weekend off the back of the party was over zealous social planning (I can hear other chronic-pain endurers going ‘duh!’).

OK, I know that describing two days of mooching on the sofa watching (brilliant) films & eating guest-made treats as ‘exerting’ sounds ironic but it’s not. I also know I am FORTUNATE! Yes I wake in pain every day & sometimes cry in pain or, moreso, from the physical & emotional tiredness from it but, hello, I danced, chatted, served, laughed & ate & drank from Friday to Sunday, & had more fabulous fun & conversation than many healthier peeps this weekend! Amidst the hosting, I let my friends/guests wash up each morning while I got my pilates groove-on cos hey, I’ve learned how to receive love & help (well, am learning), & also because I believe that it’s kind to let others show love & appreciation through service if they want to.

The time with mates has been so wonderfully nourishing for me mentally & emotionally as we watched great stories, had fun & scintillating conversation, deepened new friendships & ate & drank heartily. But it’s also been two eves in a row of 5-6hrs sleep for a body that needs-& rarely gets-9+hrs to be rested, but which will still wake in aches & pain every single morning regardless of how many hours sleep it gets, cos, y’know, chronic pain life. Nonetheless, now I’m more & more aware, & ACCEPTING, of the need for chronic pain *self-care* planning, I’m learning to plan better in future. So I’ve written off the To Do list: I’ll just have to suck in choir practice tomorrow as I haven’t the energy to rehearse tonight, & I am cashing in on the on the best perk of my job (well second best after the free coffee!) & am going to work from home tomorrow-a luxury for which I am immeasurably grateful!! So this is me being open. As I write that my face is saying ‘ugh’ as I hate vulnerability & showing any weakness! But, I’ve realised that is colluding with internalised ignorant societal norms which dictate that physical & mental health = strength when, in fact, it takes *real strength* to recognise, accept & acknowledge one’s needs & limitations. So here are some of mine laid bare. And they don’t make me any less (chronically) fabulous!

Life’s knocks, resilience & therapy

I was chatting with someone recently about a friend of his who needs therapy.  What was interesting about the conversation is that The Myth came up. You know The Myth. The ‘it’s not that serious, others have been through far worse and they don’t need therapy so why should I?’. I HATE this myth; I believe we ALL need, or at the very least would benefit from, counselling.

I know people who’ve endured sexual & other assaults, abusive childhoods & not had any therapy & who are reasonably fully functioning, healthy(ish) people.  And I know others who had secure, middle-classed lives in comfortable homes with loving but stressed parents who worked a lot, who have recognised areas in which they need help unpicking emotional issues so have gone to therapy.  And I celebrate and applause that choice because we can never be too emotionally healthy.

Some people can endure grief, illness & getting fired with supportive mates, hot baths or long runs, while others would be pushed to the edge by just one of these events. But it’s not a question of one person being tougher or another weaker. Some people have more emotional resilience and often it’s the people who, ironically, had the uncomfortable childhoods because they know it can be harder but that it gets better. And maybe they’re the people who have developed (hopefully healthy) coping mechanisms cos they’ve had longer practice.

The chat with my mate made me think of how you can drop your phone a dozen times on a hard floor and it’s fine. And then it falls 2 inches onto a carpeted surface one time and dies a thousand deaths! That’s what I thought about re resilience and life’s knocks. We can’t see the inner workings or structure of the phone; we can’t see how those minor knocks may have loosened wires and weakened the screen preparing the way for the fateful smash onto a soft, seemingly safe surface. Life can be like that. We can’t see how people’s emotions & thoughts are scratched & made brittle by words & events, but hopefully, we can listen to our own hearts & minds, & actively listen to others’ so that we are all more resilient.

Well, how??  Personally, I love using a simple ‘check-in’ technique to help identify what’s going on inside my head, sometimes just by taking a deep breath for 10 seconds to think of 5 words describing how I feel and then praying or journalling about it. And honest, open chats with emotionally intelligent friends. And reading the kind of books, & watching the kind of short vids, that make me go ‘ahhh, so that’s the word for what I’m feeling’. (Thank you so much School of Life & Alain de Botton!).  But when an objective, professional thought & emotion-sifter could be of more help, chatting with a counsellor is a fab idea.

stillirise.jpg
Photo: contrariwise literary tattoos